A few weeks ago my 5 year old started swim lessons at the Y. As he headed off with his instructor, I watched a gaggle of new moms and their babies head for the pool for the “mommy and me swim lessons.” I remember doing the same with my sons. Even though I knew he wasn’t truly learning to swim, it was something to do to alleviate those endless hours at home.
I soon noticed that the women were grouped according to looks: the cute, skinny, young moms in one group; the chubby, older moms in another group; and the average but smart looking moms in a third. I listened to their conversations, which all centered around nap times and eating solids. They weren’t asking one another for advice; just sort of doing that “this is what I do” game. You know it; it’s the game where you talk about something you’re doing because you think you’re doing a great job at it, but underneath you’re really insecure and just want validation in the form of another person’s praise. It’s something we parents start the moment our children are born and it never ends. In the beginning it’s about sleep and breast-feeding; later it morphs to topics like screen-time limitations and eating habits. We speak up when we think we’re doing it right (“Charlie just loves sushi!”) but stay mute when we know we’re a hot mess (“my kid’s only vegetable is ketchup…”). The latter doesn’t get offered at the sideline of too many soccer games unless we love self-deprecation. Even that, however, we typically save for our closest friends. But I digress…
Back to the swim lesson. I then started to wonder why these seemingly otherwise intelligent women had nothing interesting to talk about. Then I further pondered how, and why, they were grouped according to their looks, I asked myself: “What’s wrong with this picture?”
It was soon I realized – I’M WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE.
I wrote a book dedicated, in part, to promoting honesty and eliminating judgment of our fellow moms, yet there I sat, judging away. How could this be, as I always pride myself on being a “live and let live” sort of person? I guess I talk the talk quite well. It’s the walking that’s got me stumped as I quickly realized that I do this often. I’m not proud of my behavior, and it’s a bit embarrassing to admit one’s ugly thoughts. In my defense, they typically exist on a subconscious level; a mindless rant going on in my brain once I’m slightly bored or spaced-out. I’m not harming anyone by keeping it in. I am, however, perpetuating the culture in which we women constantly judge another, and I knew it needed to end.
I started that day by changing the chatter in my head, as I recalled that, not long ago, I was one of those women (though sadly not the cute, skinny young ones). I too engaged in inane conversations that focused solely on my child’s sleep issues for hours on end. Sometimes I was asking for advice, and sometimes I just wanted to talk about my successes. I loved those talks; I needed those talks, and often still do.
Next I looked at those women, not as “chubby” or “cute” but as my fellow sisters. I began to see our similarities as I noticed that each and every one of them kissed their babies at some point during the lesson. We moms have one thing in common: we love our kids and everything we do is toward that end. Sometimes that makes us intolerable, as our affection for our kids can come across to others as bragging. That love, however, is a common thread; a good reminder that we’re all connected, whether we like it or not.
Dawn wrote in her last piece that she’s committing herself to her self-care – one aspect of our triad to happier parenting. That hasn’t been a struggle for me as of late, as it’s become easier for me to get time to myself now that my kids are older. Apparently, however, I need to work on that second aspect of the triad: honesty/no judgment.
To that end, I hereby pledge to try and eliminate judgment from my inner monologue. My disco ball charm will serve as my reminder. If my mind begins to categorize or judge the people around me, I’ll give my disco ball a quick rub and remember that we’re all alike. I’ll instead look for our similarities. I’ll send out a vibe of love or sympathy rather than one of superiority. I will walk the walk.
I’ve been practicing this for several weeks now, and it’s amazing how much kinder I feel toward others. I’ve had to stop myself often, meaning the urge to judge is more prominent than I’d realized. I simply give my disco ball a rub, and suddenly the person I was about to criticize is the person I’m offering a huge smile. I might still flip my middle finger to every bad driver on the road, and bitch out my husband for never doing laundry, but I’m definitely becoming a nicer person to my fellow man/woman. If this story struck a chord with you, feel free to give it a try and report back in a comment. No matter what you say, I promise – no judgment.